Military and Police

New Year’s Eve for Cops in a Left Coast City

On New Year’s Eve in Seattle, Washington, an officer-involved shooting (OIS) occurred. Yet another armed, convicted felon ran from the police, resisted arrest, and pulled a gun on law enforcement officers. When the suspect refused to comply with police, one officer fired one shot and killed him. Sounds like an absolutely acceptable use of force, right? Hold on. Not these days. It seems there is no police use of force that is acceptable.

The ever-moving law enforcement use-of-force goalposts is frustrating for today’s police officers, trying to protect themselves, their fellow officers, and their communities from criminals who threaten them.

Law enforcement academy and department advanced training instructors will teach officers a defensive tactic in the police academy or in continuing training. Yet critics will regard the tactic as “excessive force,” but only after the officer uses it during a real-world incident.

Ordinary people don’t understand what cops face in a use-of-force situation, in real life, on the streets. That’s understandable. People who don’t do the job daily cannot understand what it’s like for an officer enveloped within that violent moment. What is not understandable is the political left’s failure to give any benefit of the doubt to police officers who are risking their safety and lives daily—for them!

These echo-chamber leftists, which include their masters in the neo-Democratic Party and their leftist collaborators in the mainstream media, inevitably slant coverage toward cops having used excessive force, including lethal. Of course, excessive force happens, but it’s rare. After all, cops are recruited from the human race and some proverbial bad apples get through. But a broad spectrum of statistics and research, including academic and government, show this is not most use-of-force cases, not even close.

And, after these incidents, critics say ignorant things in the vein of, “Why didn’t they shoot to wound?” Or “He didn’t even point his gun at the cop.” And in this case, “He wasn’t even holding the gun in a way he could shoot it.” For every second a violent, armed encounter remains fluid, the risk to officers and the public increases.

The anti-cop left doesn’t care. They just reflexively question officers’ actions. Family and friends insist their loved one was just a peace-loving father of two who wouldn’t harm a fly and would never commit a crime or carry an illegal gun. Soon, but too late for initial reporting, we find out information to the contrary. But the mainstream reporting of biased headlines has already swayed public opinion against the cops.

This is being demonstrated once again in, where else, another left coast city. On New Year’s Eve, during the late afternoon (it was already dark), police stopped a car to investigate a traffic infraction. A computer hit had shown the registered owner had a suspended driver’s license. During a computer check on the car, the male driver bailed out and ran.

After a brief foot pursuit, officers caught up to and tackled the suspect. While resisting arrest, the suspect pulled out a semi-automatic pistol. After repeated attempts to disarm the suspect, an officer fired one shot, which killed the suspect. In an act of transparency the left expects of law enforcement and Republicans but not of Democrats, the police department released vehicle and body camera video from multiple officers within a couple days of the shooting.

Media has a responsibility not only to shine a light on police actions but also to understand the damage biased, irresponsible reporting does to a community’s view of public safety. For example, take a look at this headline from The Seattle Times: “Seattle police are reviewing video of shooting of South King County father of two [emphasis mine].”

Sure, the newspaper can argue every element of this headline is accurate. The suspect lived in south King County, and he was a father of two. Yes, he has fathered two children. So, what? I fathered three children. I love them as  Iosia Faletogo loved his two kids. So what? Didn’t the newspaper also have the option to title the article, Police shoot and kill armed suspect on New Year’s Eve, or Man pulls gun on police; police shoot and kill suspect, or Convicted felon on probation, runs from police, is shot and killed after pulling a gun? Of course, these options existed. But they don’t fit the anti-cop narrative.

As people could see, from their slow-motion, fly-on-the-wall video perch, each officer had a different perspective. In fact, even the camera on each officer will capture events differently, even if only slightly, from what the officer wearing it sees—adrenaline does that. Each officer is absorbing and processing situational stimuli coming at them at a million miles per second. What may seem to those watching the video as a marked delay, is happening now to officers on the scene. Actions are not clearly segmented; they are flowing one into the other in a blur.

That’s why people often wonder why some officers will shoot and others don’t while confronting the same incident. I understand why people may question this because, rarely, there can be challenging reasons why one officer shoots and another doesn’t. But, excepting those rare circumstances, generally, if you keep in mind the variances in officer perceptions, even from the slight differences in officer positions, a community should give cops the benefit of the doubt they deserve.

Fortunately, there are fair-minded media, a precious few in deep blue cities, who support the police and give them the benefit of the doubt to which the lengthy law enforcement hiring process, comprehensive training, and oaths they swear entitle them. One of these is KTTH 770 radio talk show host Jason Rantz. Provoked by the media handling of the Faletogo shooting, Rantz posted a recent blog on Mynorthwest.com titled, “Cop hating has become a Seattle sport after shootings.”

Rantz wrote: “We’re supposed to offer deference to the families of suspects shot and killed by police because, well, everyone grieves in their own way and they have that right. But I’m done giving a free pass to outrageous, hateful comments against cops, even if they’re fueled by grief I’m sympathetic towards.”

I have to agree. Maybe it’s time all police supporters take a similar stance. Again, like Rantz, I’m sympathetic toward grieving family members especially during the immediate aftermath of a traumatic loss. If the family members were left to their private, and even public, grief, fine. Allow them their comments, analyze them objectively, and then move on. But that’s not what happens. Instead, the leftist media exploit these family members and drive the comments toward making the cops look bad. In the name of fairness, someone has to push back.

But there were a few other things the south King County father of two was:

Perhaps it’ll help if we slow the incident down and take Iosia Faletogo’s actions and consider his criminal history in a more deliberate way. Despite the incident being captured on several police video cameras, please, insert an “alleged” for the applicable entries:

  • Faletogo (suspect) committed a traffic infraction: unsafe lane change.
  • Officers checked car registration: registered owner driver’s license suspended.
  • Once stopped, suspect bolted from car’s driver’s seat and ran from police.
  • Officers caught up and tackled the suspect.
  • Suspect resisted arrest and refused to comply with officers’ orders.
  • Officer yells, “He’s reaching…!”
  • Suspect pulled out a semi-automatic handgun.
  • Officer yells, repeatedly, “Drop the gun,” “Taser, Taser, Taser,” and “You’re going to get shot.”
  • Officers tried to get the gun away from the suspect, also trying to kick it away.
  • One officer fires one round, killing the suspect.
  • Suspect’s gun was loaded with a full magazine.
  • Suspect’s gun was stolen in a 2016 car prowl.
  • Suspect was carrying $1,160 in cash and 263 pills in a container labeled with the code for Oxycodone.
  • A state lab tested the pills positive for fentanyl and acetaminophen.
  • Suspect was on probation, having pleaded guilty last June to distributing heroin in Alaska (reportedly, he’d been dealing for three years).
  • Suspect also served time for an assault conviction in King County, WA.

To be fair, The Seattle Times also reported Faletogo had gone straight for a time, reuniting with an old girlfriend (female in the car during the incident), having two children, buying a house, and working for Seattle City Light. Following a back injury, which prevented him from working, he apparently got back into drug dealing to avoid a foreclosure on his house. Reportedly, Faletogo and his girlfriend had broken up six months ago.

The Times also felt it necessary to report that though the suspect and his girlfriend, the mother of his children, had broken up, he remained a part of their lives. (From the article, whether the officer who fired was a father and a part of his children’s lives remains unknown. I’m not saying the newspaper knew the domestic status of the officer, just making a point). You know, you never read, “Cop and father of two shoots convicted felon who pulled gun on police.”

 SeattlePI.com reported, “Family members described Faletogo as a family man, older brother to two sisters and aspiring music producer. His two sons, ages 2 and 4, were his top priority…” I read no similar narratives about officers. Obviously, the reporter likely didn’t know but just as likely didn’t ask.

Parts of the suspect’s story might be sympathetic, sure, but many people suffer these types of terrible life setbacks, yet most don’t resort to dealing drugs. Most certainly don’t resort to dealing drugs and carrying an illegal firearm. And most absolutely don’t deal drugs, run from the police, and then pull a gun on the cops. Sorry, that made my sympathy meter drop to zero. I’ll reserve my sympathy for Faletogo’s children who must now grow up fatherless because of their father’s irresponsible actions. And for the officer who will now go through the leftist political storm.

This incident demonstrates how the anti-police left continues its assault on a police officer’s ability to confront life- and-death incidents. They criticize officers when they shoot suspects who only reached for the gun. They don’t like it if cops shoot a suspect who only grabbed the gun in his waistband but hadn’t pulled it out, yet. Now, they even get upset when the suspect only had the gun in his hand but hadn’t pointed it at the officer—yet! These reactions are not rooted in reality.

Cops say, “I’d like to see how they (anti-cop leftists) would handle a similar life-and-death situation.” But you know what? You never will see it. The lefties who criticize cops are deeply entrenched in the myths they create about cops. They’re infatuated with the fantasies they fabricate about how, magically, they’d handle even lethal force incidents better than the cops did. Of course, without anyone ever getting hurt or killed.

Just as with not caring about how border patrol agents, the ones who do the job, view border security, the left cares little about what cops think about law enforcement.

Here, Faletogo had a gun. He pulled out the gun. He wouldn’t drop the gun when told. Bottom line: he didn’t give up. He gave the cops no choice—at least, not if they wanted to go home after their shifts.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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